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I would like to get a single envelope of all the features in a feature class. Is there any way to do that in ArcMap?

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When I read the answers I realize that my question was not specific enough. I was looking for a tool to find the the envelope in the ArcMap GUI. Swingley's answer accomplishes exactly this in one step. However I am using ArcMap 9.3.1, which does not have that tool, but gkh's answer accomplishes this in two steps in ArcMap 9.3.1 (9.x I guess). Both Swingley and gkh's answers requires a INFO license. I didn't specify that either, but in my case that is fine. – steenhulthin Aug 12 '10 at 6:06
up vote 5 down vote accepted

Check out the Minimum Bounding Geometry tool. Specify the "ALL" for the group option to get a single feature representing the envelope of your features.

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FeatureClass supports the IGeoDataset interface, which has an Extent property containing the IEnvelope used by all features

cheers brian

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Hi Brian - With 10.0 I'm seeing some strange behavior with Zoom to Layer (it zooms out way too large). I think Zoom to layer uses IGeoDataset.Extent, but not sure. The problem occurs after I add features programmatically to an empty shapefile. I resolved the problem by calling IFeatureClassManage.UpdateExtent after adding features. – Kirk Kuykendall Aug 11 '10 at 15:24
hey kirk - I can't say definitively what's going on but my guess is it might using the full extent of the spatial reference until it has geometry. or maybe they made the UpdateExtent call (or its functional equivalent) a manual process (for perf reasons??) who knows, 10.0 is filled with bugs. great functionality but lots of issues... – bFlood Aug 11 '10 at 17:10

If you want to use the arcgisscripting Python module in 9.3x:

import arcgisscripting

gp = arcgisscripting.create(9.3)

fc = "C:/workshop/exercises/exercise1/data/stlouis_cities_geog.shp"

fcDesc = gp.describe(fc)

shpExtent = fcDesc.extent
print("Bounding Box: " + str(shpExtent.XMin) + "," + str(shpExtent.YMin) + "," +  str(shpExtent.XMax) + "," + str(shpExtent.YMax))

del fc, gp
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At 9.3 you can use the Feature Envelope to Polygon tool. You may need to dissolve the output into a multi-part feature then run the Envelope tool again.

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A rough hack: In your Dataframe Properties, Data Frame tab, Extent Used By Full Extent Command - Go to Other|Specify Extent, select Outline of Features and the FC of interest. OK out of all dialogs, go back in to the Specify Extent, and the extent of your FC should now be what is displayed in the Custom Extent top, right, bottom, left fields. We do this to set the custom full extent in ArcGIS Server map services, but it should get you the extent of the FC you want.

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